Woody Williams remembers the Battle of Iwo Jima

Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams recalls the battle in six-part video series

The Battle of Iwo Jima began on Feb. 19, 1945, as thousands of Marines landed on a beach of volcanic ash in the Pacific. For five weeks, Marines, Navy Corpsmen and Seabees fought for control of the heavily-fortified island. Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams recalls landing and running from impact crater to impact crater as his unit made its way across their first objective on the island.

“Our job was to take the first airfield, secure it, and then keep going North,” he said. “There was no protection on the airfield. All we had were some shell craters.”

When his company commander asked if he could do something about the concrete-fortified pillboxes, Williams “strapped on the flamethrower to go take out some pillboxes.”

Williams took out seven enemy pillboxes with six different flamethrowers as the fighting continued on Iwo Jima. Williams recalled, “If I had an empty flamethrower . . . I probably wouldn’t be talking to you today.”

While he said he doesn’t quite remember how he kept fighting, his actions on Iwo Jima made him a living legend among Marines.

Williams returned home in November 1945 but his service wasn’t over. He had made a pact made with a friend before landing on Iwo Jima, and after his friend was killed in combat, Williams set out to keep his promise… and uphold the Marine Corps motto of Semper Fidelis.

Watch the six-part series above to hear Williams tell this incredible story himself.


Ben Pekkanen

Ben is a multimedia storyteller with a comprehensive background in commercial filmmaking and television production. He spent 10 years in I.A.T.S.E. Local #478 working grip & lighting in New Orleans’ iconic feature film market before transitioning to broadcast television in 2003. Since becoming the Digital Media Engagement video production team lead in 2015, Ben’s work has brought home two Emmy® Awards for VA. He specializes in directing, cinematography and editing and his career includes work for HBO, MTV, NFL Films, CBS, NBC and FOX. Ben has a BA from Tulane in Media Arts and an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Maryland.


  1. Gene Stricker    

    My grandfather was in Iwa Jima. He was detailed with collecting dog tags then using a bull dozer to dig a trench to put the bodies into until a mortuary affaires unit showed up to do the job. He remembered bullets pinging off the plating Armour while he was doing his job. He rarely talked much about the war. He was a mean man the 25 or so years I had the pleasure to be around him. I joined the Army at 21 and knew he was very pleased. Medically retired 26 years later. I wish he had lived so long. Lost him in the mid 90’s. I’m looking forward to your stop in South Carolina. A few hours drive but worth every inch. God Bless you all!!!!

  2. Glenn L Burbridge III    

    Thank you Mr. Woody Williams for your courage and truly brave heroic actions that helped to take Iwo Jima & Mr Ben Pekkanen for sharing his story.

  3. Masum Rahman    

    Great information.
    Thanks for it

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